Monday, September 24, 2007

I Get Patched Over

So I got married yesterday. And this brought me to a very difficult football dilemma.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I support the French national team for reasons that date back to the 1986 World Cup and Canada's near-shock of the then-reigning European Champions. Last summer, this led to a lot of incredulous looks from my new in-laws (who are continually shocked that their daughter has managed to find - in their words - the one Canadian mangiacake who takes football more seriously than an Italian) who could not believe that I could possibly be supporting anyone but the Azzurri. Needless to say, we watched the finals several miles apart from one another.

So, anyway, as my mother-in-law is giving a speech last night, she motions me up to the podium and places an Azzurri scarf around my neck. No more Francia, she says. Forza Italia! Should I backslide, she announced, to the applause of the assembled masses, no more of her canneloni, veal or cannoli (all the things I have learned I cannot do without).

My wedding, I realized, was basically being turned into a patch-over ceremony, where I was being made to swap one set of allegiances for another. Which, I have to say, is not quite what I expected at the start of the evening.

So I ask myself: what's my loyalty to France? Not what it used to be, that's for sure. The glorious 98-00 team is almost all gone, and Vieira is the only player on whom I still have any kind of man-crush (I'm still pissed off at Henry leaving Arsenal because his wife found some incriminating text messages on his phone). Could I adopt a new team? Maybe.

If so, could I adopt Italy? Tougher sell. Can't say I've ever been an enormous fan of Italian football. But I did admire the sheer tenacity of Lippi's squad last year.

Should I adopt a new team? A dilemma peculiar to the North American fan. My own country's team is sufficiently crap that it is unlikely we will qualify for more than one more world cup in my lifetime. So all my choices are second choices - and it's not like one is intrinsically much better than another. So why not switch?

Because it doesn't feel right, that's why. I feel guilty about switching even though I have no real ties whatsoever to France (Arsenal aside). And yet, I also feel guilty about not showing solidarity with my new family.

Could I take the Azzurri flag publicly and continue to support France secretly? Or why even secretly? It's not like the two teams play each other that often (the last 14 months aside). Why not cheer for France *and* Italy, and lean to the latter when the two go head-to-head? Maybe, but that feels like cheating, too.

And so, I think I will simply have to learn to love a new team.

Fratelli d'italia...


Anonymous ursus arctos said...

You know it is right in your heart.

Ursus minor can teach you the words.

Tanti Complementi e Felicitations, we'll miss you, but don't you dare think about us.

5:03 PM  
Blogger roswitha said...

Congratulations. Married AND numbered among the supporters of i campioni del mondo!

At least you have an U-21 team to follow that most other nations would kill to have, now.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Marco Ursi said...

If you're looking for a way into the Azzuri, might I suggest Gianluigi Buffon. Not only he is the finest keeper in the world, he's also a team leader, a leading proponent of fair play and a man who values dedication to his team above all else (and I'm by no means a Juve fan).

9:36 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Possibly, Marco. But what about the rumours that his number 88 is a hidden pro-fascist symbol?

10:11 AM  
Blogger Marco Ursi said...

Hmmm, I had never heard that until now. From the minimal background reading I did, it doesn't seem that plausible. Plus, he doesn't wear that number anymore. It's Eric Lindros we should be worried about.

P.S. Congrats on the marriage.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Nice one.

And thanks to all of you for your kind wishes.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Southie said...

Congrats on the marriage, but I must say if you are now supporting the Italian national team, you can never call Liverpool boring again. I know they are world champions and all, but they and the 1990 Germany squad are the two most undeserving world champions in my life time.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I quote a relevant passage from a Bill Simmons column of five years ago:
16. If you marry someone who roots for a different team than you, you can't be bullied into switching allegiances. You'd be amazed how often this happens ... and how often it's the guy who folds. The power of women to whip men never ceases to amaze me. The funniest part is when the guy starts making excuses: "Well, once I moved to Boston from New York, I got caught up in this whole Red Sox thing and the American League, so I stopped following the Mets," or "I never liked the Browns as much as she liked the Bengals, so I'm taking one for the team," or even my personal favorite, "We wanted our kids to root for the same team as their parents."

(Don't you love when "The sake of the kids" becomes a reason? What is this, like a Jewish-Catholic thing?)

9:51 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

1. Dude, you were there. What was I supposed to do - not put the scarf on?

2. This isn't about "the kids". It's more important than that - it's about my access to canneloni.

3. Your point might be justified if I had a really good reason for supporting France (like if I were actually Francais, which I'm not , obviously). But since it's a rootless cosmopolitanism anyway...

2:06 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

alright, alright, but none of this wussy "France is my SECOND-favourite team or anything like that. If you're going to cross over and collaborate, be final about it.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Fred Dynamite said...


There's an easy out here that will salve your conscience, although I don't know what it will mean for your future consumption of canoli.

This is no trifling matter. I've had the canoli in question.

You don't consciously choose your team - rather, your team chooses you. This is most obviously the case when one is born into a nation with a team worth following. There is also a "tabla rasa" caveat to this rule: if you have no team at all, you may choose a team to follow, and 9 times out of 10 you will fall in love with that team. It's true, I've even heard of non-Geordies consciously choosing to follow Newcastle, and sticking with them. Ghastly, I know.

Your case is unique. Your team is Arsenal, which led you to France. You got caught up in their success at their peak. The question remains, did you follow the players more, or was it the team? Now that Arsenal's French core has moved on and France has fallen back to earth, do you find yourself an international footballing orphan?

The Bill Simmons predicament cited by michael is so reprehensible because we know, deep down, that the sports fan in question is not a true fan. But we can learn some lessons from the unspeakable experiment posed by this poor soul. He either retains a rootedness to his old team which he consciously denies, or was never truly a fan of his old team in the first place. Whenever he calls out for his new team, it will be without the level of devotion that brings the real fan to the heights of elation or the depths of despair.

What you need to do is take in as many qualifiers and friendlies involving your footballing suitors as possible. Don't try to convince your heart of what it should feel - it may take some time - but it will tell you. If you find yourself turning into a sniveling mess of confusion, try this exercise with a plate of canoli in front of you.

Let us know how it goes.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Actually, it was France which got me to Arsenal, not the other way around. I think I explained this in a post about a year and a half ago but I can't be arsed (hah!)to find it right now.

And yes, terrible about those Geordies. Just terrible.

Congrats on the 71 seats, btw.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Fred Dynamite said...

Geez Antonio, I was trying to give you a graceful way out!

Now its clear to us all that you're forced to sell out Les Bleus for the canoli. I won't hold it against you.

How much will Euro qualification bear on this? One thing I will say - with Ireland out, up Scoland!

1:37 PM  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

I think that in order for you readers to better understand the situation, and perhaps so that we can not judge you too harshly, you should sent out food parcels to us all. I will smaple the cannoli and then see if your switch gets my approval. Although obviosuly supporting the Azzurri has to be better than Les Bleus.

oh and (belated) congratulations and that as well.

3:19 PM  

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